Tongapoteki: The War Chief of Taufaahau

There was a man in Koloa named Tongapoteki. He was the son of Saipa Toamotu and Sialemoepua. His mother, Sialemoepua, was from Nukuleka in Tongatabu. Saipa Toamotu’s father was Galumoetutulu and his mother was Kafuatumaluouiha who was descended from the chiefs of Uiha.

Because of his ancestry, Tongapoteki was a cousin of Taufa’ahau, the king of Tonga. In 1837, Taufa’ahau was not yet the king of Tonga. He was still only the Tuihaapai (the chief of Haapai) and the Tuivavau (the chief of Vavau). During this year Taufaahau went down to Tonga to fight the people who were persecuting Christians.

At first Taufaahau was losing. He needed some extra help. So he boarded his canoe and went to Koloa to get the help of Tongapoteki.

In his journey he passed other islands, but he did not stop at those islands because he needed the help of Tongapoteki only.

When Taufaahau asked Tongapoteki for his help, Tongapoteki came and those two went to Tongatapu.

When they arrived they went to Fo’ui during the night. When they approached Fo’ui they could hear a sound. They crept through the trees towards it. When they peeked out they saw the chief of Fo’ui, Vaha’e, making Tongan rope. The sound they had heard was Vaha’e rubbing the rope fibers on his arm.

When they saw that it was Vaha’e they revelaed themselves to Vaha’e, who asked them why they had come to Tonga. Their answer was that they had come to Tonga to make the heathens stop persecuting the Christians. Vaha’e told those two that if they wanted the victory that they would have to fight him. Taufaahau agreed. Because Tongapoteki was Taufaahau’s toa, it was Tongapoteki who had to fight Vaha’e. Their fighting was wrestling.

Vaha’e was a very good wrestler. Three times Vaha’e caught Tongapoteki and threw him upside down so as to hit Tongapoteki’s head onto the ground and knock his brains out. Three times Tongapoteki saved himself by grasping the hand of Vaha’e. Three times Vaha’e failed to kill Tongapoteki because Tongapoteki held his hand. Then Tongapoteki had his turn. He grasped Vaha’e and threw him. Vaha’e grabbed at Tongapoteki’s hand, but his fingers slipped. Tongapoteki threw Vaha’e to the ground headfirst. At the last moment, Taufaahau, who was watching his toa wrestle Vaha’e, stepped forth and kneeled so that his knees would catch the shoulders of Vaha’e and prevent Vaha’e’s head from striking the ground. Vaha’e’s life was spared by this action of Taufaahau, but he knew that he had lost to the toa of Taufaahau.

(This was the strength of Taufaahau: he wanted his enemies to lose, but not to die).

Vaha’e was surprised that he had lost at wrestling and he questioned Taufaahau, “Who is this man here who defeated me?” Taufaahau replied, “This is Tongapoteki.” Vaha’e responded, “Surely he is the malohifoou (The new strength).”

Some of Tongapoteki’s descendants have taken this name as their last name. They are the new strength.

The Death of Tongapoteki

In 1852 there was another war in Tonga which was centered around the fort of Pea. After a battle in Pea the people in Taufaahau’s army gathered at their rendezvous point to see who was alive, who was wounded and who was dead. Dusk was falling and Tongapoteki had not returned from the battle. Some people said that Tongapoteki was dead, but Taufaahau declared, “My feeling is that Tongapoteki is still alive.”

Then Taufaahau left the gathering place and walked a little towards Pea to see if Tongapoteki was coming back. When it was almost dark he saw a figure coming. It was Tongapoteki. But Tongapoteki was holding his left arm over a hole in his right side. Tongapoteki was mortally wounded and he asked Taufaahau, “Kill me so that it will not be said that I was killed by a chief from Pea.”

Taufaahau offered to give Tongapoteki some land in Tongatapu. Tongapoteki replied, “I did not come down to Tongatapu to fight for land. I came because of my love for you.” Taufaahau gave Koloa to Tongapoteki. After Tongapoteki was dead he was buried in Nukuleka.

This is because his mother was from Nukuleka. (Some of the details of this story came from Kupu Halaufia).

these stories were taught to me by Toamotu Wolfgramm in January 1995. (Toamotu Wolfgram is the Matapule for Koloa). Revised: February 29, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff